Othered body, obscene self(ie): A Sartrean reading of Kim Kardashian-West

Hecate 43 (2):117-130 (2017)
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In this existential reading of Kim Kardashian-West's International Women's Day selfie of 2016, I focus on the rise of selfie culture and public discourse around emerging digital representations of women's bodies. The selfie is a relatively new phenomenon, and is particularly curious because of the subject/object paradox it creates; in taking a selfie, a person asserts control over their own image, but at the same time, becomes object in their own gaze. My argument is that selfies, like other assertions of bodily subjectivity in digital spaces, are a threat to patriarchal structures that paint women as immanent, object, as reflected in public discourse around Kardashian-West's International Women's Day selfie. I draw on both Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir's work on subjectivity in existentialism and phenomenology, as well as Amy Shields Dobson's work on post-feminism and young women's projections of self, in order to delineate what it is about the selfie that creates this paradox. I also make reference to the work of Elisabeth Grosz and Frantz Fanon in relation to a colonial hierarchy that prioritises body over mind, as well as Laura Mulvey's work on the male gaze.

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Elese B Dowden
University of Queensland


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